Q&A with Montreal band Give Me Something Beautiful

Give Me Something Beautiful, to me, is as much a mindset as it is a band name.  The Montreal band has been hard at work for a while now — at first, playing under various names and just waiting for their sound to develop to the point where a name became obvious.  If you listen to either their Live at McGill EP or the 7″ they just put up on Bandcamp, I think you’ll agree that they settled on the perfect choice.

This Friday night, shortly after 11 PM, Give Me Something Beautiful play their first Toronto show at Rancho Relaxo.  I had the chance to ask Matt a few questions in advance; the answers are below.  Hope you can make it out. Dan:  So, the last time I saw you playing live, you were with After the Weather, a band that gathered some momentum and some diehard fans and actually did quite well here in Toronto.  What is the number-one thing you took out of playing with that band and put into Give Me Something Beautiful?

Matt: I learned a lot (everything?) from my experiences with After The Weather, and it’s hard to really distill all of that into any one thing. The most positive aspect I can talk about is the flexibility that we used to put into shows; not having a set-list and playing to the room. I don’t know how well we executed that, but it was something we tried. I find it sort of tempting to figure out the order of a set before we hit the stage, but find once I get there that I was dead wrong and need to re-organize. The energy of the room dictates what you should be playing, and that was something powerful I learned from playing in After The Weather.

Give Me Something Beautiful, for the same reasons, also plays a lot more with silences and dynamics. Our range is much wider, and that’s something I learned in the last days of After The Weather; the importance of silence and space in composition. I want to be able to have a conversation with the audience, and for that you have to give them space to exist in the music, too.

Dan: I’m constantly hearing stuff from Montreal acts that haven’t gotten much exposure that it is truly hard to get gigs in that city — stories of booking months in advance to secure a Monday night where it will be tough to get people out, etc.  Would you say that Montreal’s musical reputation makes it worth the hassle?  Or is it as frustrating as I hear it is?

Matt: Montreal is an incredibly inspiring place to live, and every music scene has its difficulties and frustrations. If there’s a positive that can be gleaned from the way things are, it’s that — as a self-represented artist — you really SHOULD be living your life at least 4 months in advance anyways. Montreal teaches you to do that, or end up playing the off-venues. Some of these venues are perfectly fine, but it’s just as easy to get people to Casa Del Popolo on a Wednesday night as it is to get them to see a show at an off-venue on Friday.

The nature of the scene here is maybe a little more competitive than most places, for sure. This can make things frustrating, but it also makes them extremely rewarding. It at least teaches you, fast, to get your shit together. I feel like the support network has recently started growing again, though, and the loft scene has started to revitalize recently, which has always been an important aspect of Montreal’s scene. My opinion is that any scene is only as frustrating as your mindset.

Dan:  I’m currently listening to your 7″ on Bandcamp.  Will this be available in time for the Toronto show at Rancho Relaxo?

Matt: We are working very hard to get the new Nothing But Dirty Minded Saints 7” together, but it’s coming down to the wire, and we are hand-making the packages — something we used to do in After The Weather, as well. It SHOULD be ready for sale; our goal was to sort of celebrate the return to Toronto with something special, and this was to be it. Of course we’ve run into some technical issues. That being said, we’ll be handing out download codes and, of course, we’ll have our EP for sale as well (also hand-made).

Dan:  This is your first Toronto show with Give Me Something Beautiful, what can we expect from you as a live band?

Matt: I think we’re a very intimate and intense live experience. We demand a lot of attention, and our set doesn’t really work in a noisy room or context. We’re a little bit like going to church; we have a focus on the spiritual — or complicated — happiness that makes up life in our lyrics, and this is reflected in our live show, I think. We have a lot of bounce in our step too, but we’re not an aggressive band by any means.

Dan:  I’ve been following you musically, well, pretty much since high school.  But this band, more than anything you’ve done to date, has an undeniable maturity to it when I listen to it. Would you agree? Is this the music you always wanted to make?

Matt: That’s really difficult to say. I’m well aware of the maturity of our work and, individually, my progress as a musician and writer. I’m definitely at the height of my game in that sense. I think there’s a tendency, when dealing with a singer/guitar player, to imagine that a song-writer is a song-writer by himself, but I’ve always relied intensely on my band-mates for ideas and arrangements and After The Weather, for instance was really a collective. Give Me Something Beautiful is, too.

However, as a person, I’ve changed dramatically since high school (obviously) but also since After The Weather broke up. And I think I’m more in control of the musical and personal choices I make, and so, yes, in a way this is the music I’ve always wanted to make. But my music has always been the music I’ve wanted to make. I’m happier now, but I think that has a lot to do with my self-actualization as a musician and being happy with my personal space.

Dan: Let’s talk best-case scenarios.  Say 2011 ends with a bang, what would 2012 bring for Give Me Something Beautiful?

Matt: We’re currently finishing the writing of our first full-length album, which should be out in the first quarter of 2012, in a perfect world. Our fan-funding site has generated just over a couple grand towards the production of our album, and I’m looking to keep pushing for grants. I just received a songwriting grant from Canada Council, essentially allowing me to focus on my writing and music for the next couple of months, so over that time period we’ll be organizing the first quarter of 2012, which should start to include more extensive touring, expanding our range to, hopefully, the U.S., and trying to push to get into the festival circuit (CMW, NXNE, PopMontreal) and onto the radio (college, community, internet).

And, of course a lot more writing. We’re expanding our voice a little; Tyler, the bass player, plays about 90 different instruments well, so we’re building up his little section of the jamspace and adding synths and loop pedals and guitars. Also he has a shockingly beautiful voice, so we’ll see? But I imagine once we finish this album, the real fun will begin. Hopefully, the world doesn’t end, because I can’t wait to see where we go.

Dan: Let’s close this off with something fun.  Real talk.  What happens first: the Jays win a World Series, or the Habs win a Stanley Cup?

Matt: You can, maybe, hear the sigh in my voice as I write this — and I ask for all of Montreal’s forgiveness as I do, as well — but the Habs are not going to win a Stanley Cup until they massively cut salary and rebuild. Price and Subban are great cornerstones, but I doubt their egos would allow them to sit through a couple losing seasons while the Habs build up their draft picks. Not to mention the fickle nature of Habs fans. Sadly.

I think the next Canadian team to win a Stanley Cup will be Edmonton; if they can balance out their roster a little. That’s how you build a team, and that’s what I love about the Jays, is their focus on developing young, controllable talent. Alex Anthopolous has made it fun to be a fan again — though Roy Halladay’s pitching perhaps fell into the category of DEEP SPIRITUAL BEAUTY — the moves he’s making are exciting, and I love watching the team develop.

That being said, I do think our farm system is over-rated and we are a team without a definite leader — Bautista is doing an amicable job, but he’s not yet developed into a leader on the order of, say, Dave Winfield. I think Romero, as great of a pitcher as he is, is not quite an ace either. We will contend for the AL East within 5 years I think, as long as we can keep this momentum, but a lot depends on what future moves Anthopolous makes. People talk about the Stanley Cup being the hardest trophy to win — or at least hockey fans do — but if you’re not the Yankees, I think building a team that wins the World Series is a much harder task.

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